Joanna England paid a visit to Jamie’s Italian with three ravenous kids in tow and enjoyed a fantastico lunch experience at Dubai Festival City’s best-known celeb-run restaurant
We weren’t sure how things would pan out when we decided to take our sanity in our hands and dine out at a respectable, grown-up restaurant with three kids under seven…
We’re normally family brunch people you see; heavily reliant on in-restaurant play areas, resident face-painters, video game consuls and cup-cake making stations to keep the little monsters occupied.
We hadn’t been at Jamie’s long when the first wobbly moment occurred. The boys decided that (in the absence of anything else) the wheelchair lift must be a kids’ attraction. Thankfully, it passed without serious incident once the crayons, colouring sheets and children’s menus arrived. These, quite brilliantly, are 1970’s kids’ Viewmasters – and after a minor squabble broke out (because the waitress initially only brought one), Dad spent a nostalgic few minutes explaining to the boys that he used to have one when he was a boy, and would they like him to find them one on EBay?
With the menus clamped firmly to their faces, the boys happily scrolled through the choices, which included wholesome looking kids’ burgers, cauliflower cheese, spag bol, fish fingers and chicken lollipops. They both opted for the chicken lollipops, which, when they arrived, looked more like mini pizza slices on satay sticks. This is because they are made from lean chicken breast, which is then coated in roasted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, herbs and the like. The dish is served on a mini chopping board covered in a cute, rustic-looking red and white checked napkin (no smashed crockery here).
The lollipops are accompanied by a jar of chopped up salad and a little pot of dressing. The idea is the kids add the dressing to the jar, close the lid (don’t forget to do this properly) and then shake the salad up for all they’re worth. It went down a storm and reminded us a bit of those retro ‘Salt and Shake’ crisp bags – another 1970’s throwback – only much healthier of course.
The kids’ meal also came with a carafe of pomegranate cordial. There are no over-sugared, fizzy drink options. The boys were delighted by the fact that they had their own ‘grown-up’ drink to share – plus, the waitresses kindly re-filled it several times throughout the meal for no extra charge.
Once our brood were happily tucking into their grub (they were served first), we could look forward to our food. Dad chose a large portion of the mussel linguini, (you can select main or starter-sized portions) which was a generous plateful of juicy mussels tossed in garlic, chilli, parsley, lemon and butter, and then served with fresh linguini. He’d been out with old friends the night before, so declared the bite of the chilli and the starch of the pasta, the perfect remedy for his self-induced ailments.
Meanwhile, I opted for the wild truffle risotto; a combination of creamy rice, finely minced black truffle, parmesan and butter. While it certainly isn’t a dish for dieters, the sublimely subtle flavours were beautifully balanced and aromatic. The baby, who by this time had almost eaten her bodyweight in home-made crispy breadsticks (also complimentary and supplied on-tap) eagerly shared the portion – and squawked in protest when her spoonfuls didn’t come fast enough.
To accompany our mains, we ordered the minted peas, which are slow-cooked baby leeks and British peas served with mint. While the boys were kept busy with their ‘salad shakes’ we grown-ups and the baby made short work of this side order which tasted virtuously healthy.
By the time we finished our meal, we were happily satisfied rather than over-stuffed. As expected, Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating philosophy is reflected in the portion sizes, which are on the sensible side. Although, they can look small when compared to some of the unhealthily giant servings dished up in many of Dubai’s eateries.
To finish off, we ordered ice cream; homemade raspberry and chocolate; just one scoop each. The scoops were undeniably small – but after all those carbs (for us adults anyway) it was more than enough. Once the boys had bolted their ice creams, it was time for a trip to the bathrooms, which are located on the mezzanine floor. Much hilarity was had when they realised the actual loos are replicas of the original ‘Thomas Crapper’ antique British models with proper chain flushes, ‘just like Grandmas’!’ In fact, they insisted on going back about three times each to have a go, which we also put down to the gallons of pomegranate cordial they’d consumed.
If you’re looking for a good restaurant that accommodates families well, but isn’t totally given over to entertaining the nippers (sometimes places like that can feel a bit much on a Friday lunchtime) then Jamie’s Italian is a good, happy medium. The kids are well catered to, the service is spot on and it’s licensed too (just in case you need hair of the dog). Plus, it’s not that expensive either. We were pleasantly surprised to find our entire bill came to just over Dhs300 – pretty good going for a hungry family of five. We’ll be back for more.
Jamie’s Italian is located at the Marina Pavillion, Dubai Festival City. Open Mon-Wed, 12noon-11pm, Thu-Fri, 12noon-12am, Sat-Sun, 12noon-11pm. Visit www.jamieoliver.com/italian/Dubai (04 232 9969).